Market Basket seen as positive draw for city

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The Market Basket in Westbrook will be 80,000 square feet. The Biddeford store, above, is larger with 107,000-square feet.

WESTBROOK — Reactions have been mostly positive after last week’s announcement that Market Basket will be replacing Walmart at The Ridge-Westbrook plaza.

Waterstone Retail Development announced Nov. 16 that the Massachusetts-based grocery store chain would be the anchor for the Main Street project instead of Walmart. It will be the second Market Basket location in Maine. 

For the most part, Westbrook residents are pleased with the change in anchor. Brown Street resident Brandon Krupski said Market Basket is a good choice because it meets a basic need, food, while being cost effective. He said this makes “patronage to this plaza an absolute guarantee.”

“This is a great selling point for other businesses wishing to move into the area – something that Walmart would not have been able to do,” he said.

The 500,000-square-foot regional retail shopping center at the site of the former Pike Industries property was first approved by the board last October. The project, at the site of a stone quarry, will not change in size, but the Market Basket will be smaller than the proposed Walmart. The grocery store will be 80,000-square-feet while the Walmart Supercenter was expected to be 180,000-square-feet. 

One concern about Market Basket coming to the city is that the other grocery stores in Westbrook – Hannaford and Shaws – will suffer. 

“I do have concerns about how it will affect the already established grocery chains that have been serving our community for decades, but I don’t think that the impact of a Market Basket would be any worse on them than if it were Walmart,” resident Bethany Kalenderian said.

Krupski said it’s good to have competition in the marketplace and that Market Basket will bring more customers to Westbrook from surrounding towns.

“Having a third competitor in the grocery business is only going to be good for we the consumer,” he said.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said he’s pleased with the change in stores. He said bringing in a retailer that’s unique to the area will give people more reason to shop in Westbrook.

“It fits what I wanted to see in that complex,” he said. “My hope was for a strong well-known retailer which either wasn’t well known in Maine or didn’t have a strong presence in Maine.”

Anton Melchionda, a managing partner at Waterstone, said he’s excited that Market Basket is the new anchor.

“I am ecstatic beyond belief that we’ll have Market Basket for this project,” he said. “We’re very grateful and fortunate they chose Westbrook. We think it’s a great partnership.”

Melchionda said Market Basket, which could open as soon as fall 2018 or spring 2019, will be a great fit for Westbrook. 

“We had been watching this project take form for many years and as a resident of the greater Portland area it was very clear to me as the gateway to the area the project deserves something special,” he said. “The decision was to put a premier grocer.”

Bryant said it helps that Market Basket, which has a Biddeford location as well as numerous stores throughout New England, is known for being a nice place to shop and work.

“It’s a retailer that comes with a strong and positive reputation,” he said.

Krupski said that while Walmart also would have provided jobs in the city, the store already has nearby locations in Scarborough and Falmouth.

“Walmart’s jobs and tax revenue would have been great for the city, but ultimately I feel as though the market was too saturated to support another in this area,” he said. “Uniqueness and necessity would have been boxes left unchecked had the original anchor stayed the course.”

Kalenderian said she’s “indifferent” about Market Basket, but is very happy Walmart is no longer in the plan. 

“The city of Westbrook has been working hard these past few years to improve its image and I definitely think that Market Basket will fit much better into that plan than a Walmart would have,” she said.

Melchionda agreed that the grocer’s strong standing will make it an asset to the city.

“As an experience to shop at Market Basket, it’s arguably one of the premier grocers in the world,” he said. “For the community to have access to Market Basket, the prices and the quality, will be a great amenity for people.”

Switching out Walmart for Market Basket will also leave more room for other businesses in the plaza. Melchionda said no other businesses have been confirmed yet, but that Waterstone has been in discussion with local Westbrook and Portland businesses as well as regional and national retailers. He said he expects more businesses will want to be located in the plaza now that Market Basket is part of the project.

“Due to the anchor change we think we’ll have greater demand from businesses who will appreciate the change in profile,” he said. “We expect to see interest increase.”

Melchionda said he hopes to see a strong variety in the businesses in the plaza. He said he’s hoping for a mix of restaurants, shops, entertainment businesses, medical offices and residential space.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Market Basket, rather than Wal-Mart, will be the new anchor for The Ridge-Westbrook, the 500,000 square-foot retail center at the Pike Industries land between Main Street and Larrabee Road.  

The Market Basket in Westbrook will be 80,000 square feet. The Biddeford store, above, is larger with 107,000-square feet.

Market Basket opened its Biddeford store in 2014.

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